Girding Your Loins for the Pulpit

Perhaps best known for penning the hymn “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) was a celebrated 19th-century Episcopal preacher and bishop in Massachusetts. He published a famous book entitled Lectures on Preaching, in which he exhorted ministers to combine the two great essentials in preaching: truth and personality, which he called character. A chief feature of character is courage, essential to the preaching task.

There is another source of power which I can hardly think of as a separate quality, but rather as the sum and result of all the qualities which I have been naming. I mean Courage. It is the indispensable requisite of any true ministry. The timid minister is as bad as the timid surgeon. Courage is good everywhere, but it is necessary here. If you are afraid of men and a slave to their opinion, go and do something else. Go and make shoes to fit them. Go even and paint pictures which you know are bad but which suit their bad taste. But do not keep on all your life preaching sermons which shall say not what God sent you to declare, but what they hire you to say. Be courageous. Be independent.1


1 Philips Brooks, Lectures on Preaching (New York: E. P. Dutton and Co., 1877), 59.

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